Every year in June, a small group of runners arrive at a tree-lined street in Queens, NY at 6 a.m to begin an epic journey that will take them anything from one and a half to two months to complete. Every day they run for 18 hours, averaging anything between two and three marathons a day, around and around a city block measuring just over half a mile, in weather that can range from scorching heat to monsoon-like rain.
The race is organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, and one remarkable feature of the race is the level of support given to the runners as they attempt this toughest of challenges. From dawn to midnight, there is a crew of volunteers working on medical, massage and preparing food according to each runners individual needs. The runners often also have a personal assistant who volunteers their time to cater to each runner. Each runner on average consumes over 10000 calories a day, consisting of things like eggs, mashed potatoes and tofu, much of it dipped in olive oil. They also go through between 10 and 20 pairs of runners along the duration of this race, which is roughly the distance from New York to Los Angeles. The place has become a kind of ultrarunning pilgrimage place, with the runners getting regular visits from friends in the ultrarunning world as well as the race founder Sri Chinmoy, who often visits the course twice a day to encourage the runners.
The race record is held by Madhupran Wolfgang Schwerk, a instrument maker by trade from Germany, who in 2006 shattered his own previous race record of 42 days by completing the race in 41 days 8 hours. Asprihanal Aalto from Helsinki, Finland has won the race four times, two more than Schwerk and Ed Kelley from California who have both run the race twice. Asprihanal has just won the 2007 race in a time of 43 days and 4 hours, the third fastest time in race history. Suprabha Beckjord from Washington DC holds the dual distinction of being the only female participant, and the only competitor to have participated in all eleven editions of the race.
The common reaction by many upon first hearing of the race is one of incredulity that one could actually cover that much mileage. The prospect is certainly an extremely intimidating one for the runners as they toe the line on that first day, no matter how much long-distance running experience they might have. In order to complete the race one really has to go beyond the complaining mind and tap into a source of inner strength inside them which they might never have known existed previously. The first week of the race is especially difficult, as the runners experience the first signs of physical discomfort and fatigue, coupled with the knowledge that it will continue for another month. But as time goes on, the runners get into a routine and learn to cope with the schedule. Many runners find that they are able to discard the mental baggage that plagued them at the start of the race, and running becomes a much more vibrant experience. There are some beautiful accounts of the race written by people who have run in it (which you can read below,) which give some flavour of the experience of running these races, from the initial apprehension and race beginnings to the ultimately spiritual experience that one gets from pushing oneself to the limit of ones potential.
- You can read some personal accounts by runners Abichal Watkins and Sopan Tsekov, as well as co-race director Sahishnu Szczesiul on the multidays.com site. You can also catch up with the progress of the current race on the site's blog...
- Accounts by Australian Rathin Boulton of his race experiences from 2003-2005
- Article by Austrian Smarana Puntigam answering eloquently a (very!) common question: Why Run 3100 Miles?
- Arpan DeAngelo, who lives just a few hundred yards from the race course, ran the race in 2004. You can read a very nice article about it on his personal site...
- Here is an index of race videos produced by Canadian Utpal Marshall on the 2006 race...
- In this footrace, the last 3000 Miles are the toughest - nice article on Columbia news service
- Blog dedicated to the 3100 Mile race
- Regular blog updates on Sri Chinmoy Races at planetulatramarathon.com
- Coverage of 2007 race start on Sri Chinmoy news blog
- Recent blog entry by Tejvan Pettinger on the 2007 race...